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Rail strike to disrupt commutes next week

Rail strike to disrupt commutes next week

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Published : 2013-12-13 13:39
Updated : 2013-12-13 18:24

A subway platform at Jongno 3-ga Station in Seoul is crowded with passengers waiting for delayed trains on Friday. (Yonhap News)

Passenger train operations, including KTX bullet trains and the Seoul subway, are to face partial disruptions next week due to protracted strikes by rail workers.

The Korean Railway Workers’ Union launched a general strike on Monday in protest of Korea Railroad Corp.’s plan to launch a subsidiary for a new bullet train line.

The ongoing strike is likely to cause more confusion nationwide next week as KORAIL plans to reduce KTX bullet train operations by 12 percent, starting on Tuesday. Its subway operations will also be reduced by 8.4 percent from normal levels, starting on Monday, the state-run railway operator said. A number of unionized workers at Seoul Metro, the operator of lines 1 to 4, are also set to join the ongoing strike.

KORAIL shares operation of lines 1, 3 and 4 with Seoul Metro, while it is the sole operator of the Bundang, Jungang, Gyeongchun and Gyeongui lines. The reduction will take place during the daytime to avoid further disruptions during peak hours, the rail operator said.

Some passengers in parts of Seoul and neighboring cities suffered from delayed train operations on Friday, partly from the ongoing strike, sudden power outages and technical failures.

Rail workers are protesting the government’s KTX spinoff plan. The union believes the plan would eventually lead to the privatization of the company, massive job losses and fare hikes.

Taking stern action, KORAIL has removed 7,857 workers from their positions as of Friday afternoon. The operator has also sued 194 union members for failure to perform work duties. The government also threatened on Wednesday that it would not tolerate any illegal actions.

In a tit-for-tat move, the Korean Railway Workers’ Union lodged a complaint with the prosecution on Friday against the railroad company for making false accusations.

“We have the right to organize and have the right to collective bargaining, all guaranteed by the constitution,” the railroad officials told the press before lodging the complaint.

The unionized workers of KORAIL are set to hold a rally in Seoul Square on Saturday.

Officials said the protracted strike is causing problems due to less man power and exhaustion suffered by the remaining workers, and that they will reduce operations over safety concerns.

At around 6:40 a.m. two trains derailed near Imun Station in Nowon before passengers had boarded. It is suspected that the accident resulted from a problem with the break system.

At 8:25 a.m., a train on the same line suddenly stopped running at Jegi-dong Station. It resumed operation after nine minutes but trains following behind were delayed for 10 minutes.

Officials said there were no changes in train schedules but admitted that there could have been some delays due to the shortage in man power.

Commuters on the Bundang line and Subway line 1, in particular, complained of severe delays during rush hour.

“I waited 30 minutes at Suseo Station just to travel less than 20 minutes to Dogok Station. All the trains were packed, with people on the platform pushing to get inside and no one willing to wait for the next train,” Kim Tae-hee, an office worker who was going to work at 8 a.m. that day, told The Korea Herald.

Train operations were disrupted this week, with two Mugunghwa trains delayed for hours near Bibong Station in North Gyeongsang Province. A freight train derailed as well, between Bibong and Tabri stations.

By Suk Gee-hyun


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